Article: Why telehealth should be a priority for HR policy framework

Employee Relations

Why telehealth should be a priority for HR policy framework

Like most of the employers were super aggressive in adopting virtual work from home technology solutions in order to avoid any business interruptions, some employers are also proactive in adopting digital healthcare solutions for their employees.
Why telehealth should be a priority for HR policy framework

None of us imagined that a pandemic will turn the world upside-down. Recovery to the pre-pandemic stage may take longer but that doesn’t mean we should stop living a normal life. With some changes to daily routines, one may continue to live a normal life. The impact is evident everywhere and examples, masks are becoming necessities, visit to public places is becoming scary, offices have become virtual and people are afraid of accessing necessities too.

The workplaces are impacted the most by not only working from home which in some way impacts efficiency, our social and personal lives, but also postponing critical healthcare decisions. Experts are advising that we should stay home as much as possible and that is driving millions to work remotely, that eventually disrupting businesses. Should that be the case for you as an employee or for your employees? As an HR or an organization, you are at a very critical stage and you should think about it, if you haven’t already.

Humans are designed to adapt to the new normal and we find ways to work things out. Pandemic is just a small example and like the world is already experiencing new trends that are becoming normal. As an example, digital adoption in education, remote working, healthcare and other areas have shown tremendous potential to help people like us in pandemic situations. This is the start and there are enormous possibilities to use technology to our advantage. Digital healthcare is one of the novel solutions that is believed to be the most relevant in a pandemic like situation. While most of the healthcare facilities are open and accessible, patients are wary to visit. Every employer wants their employee to be super productive, motivated, spirited, healthy and so on, but how you achieve such objectives in situations like this. A simple solution to some extent may be digital adoption. 

Like most of the employers were super aggressive in adopting virtual work from home technology solutions in order to avoid any business interruptions, some employers are also proactive in adopting digital healthcare solutions for their employees. A digital healthcare solution is becoming a norm and as an employer its important to be proactive and ensure appropriate solutions are available for your employees. HR organization plays a very critical role when it comes to employee wellbeing. 

A digital healthcare solution could come in many forms and examples may include, panel of dedicated doctors available virtually, access to quality tele-medicine platform, Artificial Intelligence to help basic healthcare issues and many more. Many healthcare facilities are providing telemedicine support like online doctor consultation and lab reports management, still no one was ready for the flood of virtual consultation requests that COVID-19 incited. Fortunately, telehealth is primarily driven by technology and comes with the ability to be scaled up quickly. That helped service providers to not only fill the gap that pandemic created but also ensure safety of the patient community at large. To a large extent this also helped to ease the burden on the healthcare professionals, hospitals and clinics.

That being stated, for an organization and as an employer, there has never been a more critical time to consider the telemedicine alternatives for your employees. A study conducted by the National Business Group on Health(NBGH's) - “Large Employers' 2018 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey” of 148 of the biggest U.S. employers reported that- 96 percent of large employers are making telemedicine services available to their employees. 56 percent of large employer’s plan to offer telemedicine that covers behavioural health services. 

Indian corporates have long been using onsite healthcare, affiliation with healthcare service providers and other opportunities to serve the healthcare needs of their employees. There are corporates proactively using digital healthcare solutions to help their employees before pandemic as they realize the potential benefits of such solutions are way beyond just the convenience. Pandemic have further demonstrated a strong need of telemedicine and increased the penetration significantly. Based on the research, most of the MNC’s follow the footpath of their U.S. or European counterparts and engage quality telemedicine providers as their preferred service providers. If you don’t have a preferred telemedicine partner yet, you should seriously start considering this. If you already have a telemedicine partner, you should encourage your employees to utilize it as much as they can. HR plays a very critical and active role in an organization’s overall well-being, not just hiring the right people, training and on-going support but also making sure employees are taken care well. Healthcare is becoming consumer centric and people are taking informed decisions, that means your employees know what they are looking for. By proactively taking certain measures on the healthcare aspect of your employees, you are ensuring your organization's success to a large extent.

Potential benefits to the employer

  • Saving time, cost and creating efficiencies at relatively no or marginal cost. Telemedicine is a cost saving and effective way to provide healthcare.
  • Organizations whose ‘Employee health benefits’ programs incorporate telemedicine services can interface their workers to simpler, more advantageous treatment without giving up on the quality of care
  • Employees no longer need to cut out hours – like half days or full days– from their timetables to visit a specialist for routine or subsequent clinical arrangements. And this will lead to a healthier and more efficient workplace
  • Telemedicine can reduce employee stress by providing a way to handle minor medical issues without having to utilize available leaves or loose pay
  • Lab tests can be booked for home sample collection, which can save leave hours/day
  • Report collection is no more in person, can be looked up via online or can be requested in email. Hence, saving time
  • Less or no visits to a healthcare facility means less exposure to viruses and hence less chances of getting serious illness and going on long leaves. 

Digital healthcare is a new norm and one not only needs to understand the benefits of it but also needs to be appropriately educated and trained in order to take the maximum benefit from it. An HR is the best resource to rollout and make telemedicine effective and beneficial for your organization. As an HR, you not only need to educate, train and continuously encourage employees to use and benefit but also convince the leadership and demonstrate benefits of telemedicine, choose a quality telemedicine partner for long-term success and make sure consistency is being maintained. 

Due to COVID-19, we saw a huge shift in the healthcare service and delivery mechanism. As we started using technology more efficiently for our benefits, there is a new world of healthcare which awaits us. Organizations offering telehealth will benefit from a healthier and productive workforce while employees will profit from an approachable and convenient medical care. It is a solution that is going to boost employee well-being initiatives in the years to come. 

We have never seen an occurrence like this alter our everyday lives and how we get work done. While in the case of traumatic events such as explosions, earthquakes and other catastrophes, most businesses do have continuity plans in place, few, if any, were quite prepared for the degree of disruption caused by COVID-19. Hence, this is the right time for organizations to include Telemedicine as part of the HR Policy Framework for the benefit of both- employer and employees. 


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Topics: Employee Relations, #GuestArticle, #COVID-19

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